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The Chancels of Mainz - Interview with Russell Hemmell

Let’s start from the beginning. Who were the writers who inspired you to become an author?

Good question. I am not sure. Certainly, Jack London, because 'White Fangs' made me cry several times as a young kid, and I wanted to write a less cruel story. Said that, I think Japanese manga definitely motivated me, also because I 'see' my characters. They all look like anime.

I hope one day to team up with a mangaka and publish my stories as manga.

What is the very first piece of fiction you ever wrote?

It was actually poetry. I was about 8, and the piece was dark and full of demons. In times, I decided demons only pretend to exist, which makes them much more interesting.

What is the hardest part of writing, in your experience?

Revising. My first drafts sound like (bad) translations from Latin, and it takes me many passes with my 'editor' brain to tweak them into something vaguely English-looking. Drags of being a multilingual, non-native speaker, I guess.

Tell me about your novella. What was the inspiration behind it?

A French novel by Jean d'Ormesson, a modern retake of the legend of the Wandering Jew. I always thought: what if the Wandering Jew was not a Jew at all, and not human either...?

A visit to Mainz in my Erasmus years did the rest.

Is there a particular character in the book? What makes it so?

My favourite character is the protagonist, Hermann, young, proud, and full of good intentions, who ends up doing horribly wrong due to his preconceptions.

I always had a soft spot for YA stories where people got punished for their intellectual arrogance, especially if they can learn from their mistakes.

Think back at your writing debut. How did you approach the ‘getting published’ process? Any tips, resources that you can share with our readers?

The only advice I can give is to keep going. And never, ever self-reject. You never know who and what an editor will buy.

How did you find the publishing process, in general?

Harrowing, of course. Exciting, too. The adrenaline of an acceptance can't be overestimated.

What do you think is the status of publishing today? I’m referring to issues such as representation, diversity, etc.

A million-dollar question. In short: we've started (which is good) but so much more is needed.

What is your take on social media, when it comes to being an author? Do you think that an author should have at least one channel of communication with the readers?

I have a blog and tweet regularly, mainly to have a feel of what's going on in the writing community. For what concerns readers, in my case it is more complicated to understand how to interact with them. It happened a few times, but it is more episodical than a coherent strategy.

What do you think about Awards in publishing?

Always nice to get one, of course, but I think nominations are what matter the most, especially for new authors.

What are you working on at the moment?

I am writing a YA science fiction series and doing the last revision to a historical fiction novel.

If you had to recommend an author and/or a book, who would it be?

Hillary Mantel, Bring up the Bodies, the second installment of the trilogy on Thomas Cronwell --to me, one of the best historical novels ever written. And, of course, Umberto Eco's Il nome della rosa (The Name of the Rose), a book that all writers, no matter their genre, should have on their desk.

Steph P Bianchini, writing as Russell Hemmell
Steph P Bianchini, writing as Russell Hemmell

Returning to Luna for the third collaboration, this time for fiction, is Steph P Bianchini, writing under the byline of Russell Hemmell. An Italian academic based in the UK, Steph is an Associate Professor and a member of the Royal Historical Society and worked over the last ten years on projects in social sciences, international relations, and humanities. They blog about sciences, speculative fiction, and history at and edit the ezine "Frozen Wavelets" ( of speculative flash fiction and poetry.

As a fiction writer, Steph is a member of SFWA and HWA, writing under the byline Russell Hemmell. Their short stories and poetry have appeared in many publications, including Aurealis, Cast of Wonders, Flame Tree Press, The Grievous Angel, and others.

About The Chancels of Mainz:

In late 16th century Germany, the witch-hunt trials are engulfing the country. Young, brilliant, and eager to prove himself, Inquisitor Hermann De Vylt is hellbent on his holy war against the forces of evil. But when his world is turned upside down by the death of a noblewoman accused of witchcraft and the encounter with the mysterious Namtar in the Cathedral of Mainz, Hermann is forced to reconsider his allegiances. Watch the YouTube Book Launch here.

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